for strong/bloody violence and language throughout.
Ana de la Reguera, Tenoch Huerta, Josh Lucas, Cassidy Freeman, Leven Rambin
Jason Blum, Michael Bay, Andre
Universal Pictures on
I suppose the best way to characterize The Forever Purge is as "red meat for Purge fans." When you get this deep into a franchise, the tendency is to take the safe path and regurgitate earlier narrative beats, albeit with different "characters" (if the one-dimensional stereotypes can be elevated to that level of nomenclature). Still, The Forever Purge tries something a little different, at least during the second half. The film's big "twist" (that anarchists have decided the annual Purge won't end when the government says it will) allows the movie's last 45 minutes to play out like a Western, with the good guys trying to reach the border while being chased by the bad guys. (In this case, however, the goal is to cross into Mexico from Texas, not the other way around.)
Throughout its history, The Purge movies have been driven by box office performance. After the original 2013 release made an astounding $64M (for a huge production cost:gross ratio), the planned stand-alone became the first part of a trilogy. When the third installment, The Purge: Election Year continued to show earning strength ($79M), Universal ordered another movie from Blumhouse and creator James DeMonaco: the prequel The First Purge. Although not as lucrative as the previous films, the results were sufficient to warrant The Forever Purge. DeMonaco does his best to freshen up the formula but it's starting to feel beyond repetitive, especially when it comes to the allegorical aspects.
The Forever Purge follows events of The Purge: Election Year and essentially ignores the ending to that film in which the annual Purge was ended. Now, without any real explanation, it's back: Every March 22 for 12 hours, criminal law is suspended. People can do whatever they want, even murder, without fear of legal consequences. Except this time, when it's over, a huge group of anti-government, anti-immigrant neo-Nazis want it to continue so they can do their patriotic duty and make America great again by purifying the population (killing everyone who isn't a "true-blooded" American).
The first half of The Forever Purge proceeds with Purge-like familiarity and Blumhouse efficiency (there are a couple of jump scares but, for the most part, this is more thriller than horror). The heroes are a mixture of immigrants - Adela (Ana de la Reguera); her husband, Juan (Tenoch Huerta); and their friend, T.T. (Alejandro Edda) - and the members of the wealthy ranch-owning Tucker family - hothead Dylan (Josh Lucas); his pregnant wife, Cassie (Cassidy Freeman); his sister, Harper (Leven Rambin); and the patriarch, Caleb (Will Patton). After successfully surviving the Purge, they mistakenly believe themselves to be safe when the all-clear sounds. That's when they learn that "patriots" of a large political movement have decided to keep the Purge going. Chaos reigns from sea to shining sea, martial law is declared, and many citizens who don't agree with the anarchists head for Mexico and Canada. Adela, Juan, T.T., and the Tuckers band together for their own border-trek.
The Forever Purge unspools as expected. The biggest surprise might be that veteran character actor Will Patton, who typically plays a villain, gets to wear the white hat this time around and the screenplay awards him with a nice speech. Other than Patton, the only familiar face is Josh Lucas, although Ana de la Reguera has an impressive resume of Mexican TV show titles. As with the other Purge movies, the goal is to provide a couple of recognizable faces (other entries in the series have featured the likes of Marisa Tomei, Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, and Ethan Hawke) and surround them with unfamiliar (read: cheaper) actors.
I'm tempted to say this is the best entry into The Purge series, but that might be damning with faint praise. I'm a sucker for Westerns so I enjoyed the way this movie unexpectedly segues into that genre toward the end. The political elements are grating and over-the-top; there's no need to beat a dead horse. All the entries into The Purge series have been political but The Forever Purge is the most unapologetic and sledgehammer-blunt of them all.
It all boils down to a simple equation for Blumhouse. Audiences have responded well to previous Purge entries and they will continue churning them out until the level of profitability drops below acceptable levels. With Mexican-born director Everardo Gout at the helm (DeMonaco having stepped away from directorial duties following Election Year), The Forever Purge is adept at providing the violence and gore fans expect from an exploitation flick. And, despite its pretense of offering political commentary, that's really all this movie is.
© 2021 James Berardinelli
Cinemas About Town